In celebration of the UN’s International Day of Families (May 15), TGCA interviews Katy Faust, who is doing important work in advocating for children’s rights, in part by reframing the debate around marriage and family. She visited Australia during the marriage postal vote, appearing on the ABC’s Lateline and Q&A. She is the founder and director of the children’s rights organisation, ‘Them Before Us’.
TGCA: You’re the founder and director of a children’s rights organisation – ‘Them Before Us’. What is the purpose of your organisation?
Katy Faust: We have a very modest goal of a total global takeover of all conversations around marriage and family. We aim to prioritise the rights of children to be known and loved by their mother and father in every personal and policy decision.
I had never met a child separated from their mother or father (or both) who didn’t care. And for most of these kids, that loss resulted in a lifelong wound.
We seek to do that in two ways.
First, to change hearts by sharing the stories of kids who have lost a relationship with their mother or father because adult desire was prioritised above their rights.
The second is to change laws by pairing those stories with the highest calibre of social science and share them with policymakers so they can understand how children are victimised when we get these questions wrong. Ultimately, we seek to position them (children) before us (adults) in our culture and our courtrooms.
TGCA: What got you into this in the first place?
KF: Back in 2012 when the marriage debate was heating up, what I heard the pro-gay marriage camp saying is, “kids don’t care if they have two moms or two dads.”
But what that means, in reality, is kids don’t care if they have lost their mom or lost their dad. In many ways, the gay marriage debate was built on lies about kids. After working with kids for a couple of decades, I had never met a child separated from their mother or father (or both) who didn’t care. And for most of these kids, that loss resulted in a lifelong wound.
Once I started studying up on other family matters, I saw that lie extended into issues of reproductive technologies, divorce, surrogacy, birth certificates, etc.
Nearly every adult group was seeking to justify their decisions to separate a child from one or both of the parents to whom they have a natural right by using phrases like, “if I’m happy the kids will be happy” or “love makes a family.” But the stories of kids, and the best social science, tell us otherwise. Yet nobody was formally advocating for the rights of children.
So I, along with a few other children of the sexual revolution, decided to try and speak up on their behalf.
TGCA: Why should Christians be concerned about the rights of children?
KF: Throughout history, wherever Christianity has gone the lives of children have improved.
That’s because biblical commands tell us that children have a special place in the heart of God and deserve special protection (e.g.Is 10:1-3, Jas 1:27). That Christian concern results in protecting children’s fundamental rights to life, safety, and not being exploited.
One of the best ways to secure all three of those needs is to defend Gods design for sex and marriage.
When children are raised in the home of their married biological parents, they are the most likely to thrive and the least likely to be abused, neglected, and exploited. Our organisation, and now our new book, communicates those fundamental truths by using social science and 100+ testimonies of children who have lived through these “modern families.”
While that message perfectly complements scripture, we appeal to a common authority under which all humans must submit… natural law.
Thus, we equip Christians to talk about these subjects in a way that is accessible to those who don’t recognise biblical authority. This child-centric message cannot be refuted when you look at the evidence, the stories of kids, or your own life.
TGCA: Many Christians reading this might feel the importance of advocating for children, but feel a sense of resignation, seeing that adult desires seem to trump children’s rights in our culture (not least with the acceptance of same-sex marriage). How would you respond to their concerns?
KF: As Christians, we don’t make decisions on what to say and whom to defend based on whether or not it’s popular, or even what seems “winnable.”
As Christians, we don’t make decisions on what to say and whom to defend based on whether or not it’s popular, or even what seems ‘winnable.’
We are called, indeed, we have a mandate, to protect the most vulnerable. Throughout the Old Testament, the fatherless are identified as one demographic which deserves special protection and care. Today’s messages about family and modern technologies literally manufacture fatherless children. How can we claim to love Christ by loving “the least of these” if we are not willing to take a stand in matters where children are the most harmed?
These fundamental truths, that male and female are different and that their lifelong union creates and benefits children in a way that no other adult relationship can, will not remain hidden.
Just as in our battle against the injustice of abortion, the evidence for a child’s right to life will rise to the surface. It’s the same with a child’s right to her own mother and father. The truth cannot stay buried for long. As my good friend Doug Mainwaring, a gay man and traditional marriage supporter, states, “You’ll never be on the wrong side of history when you were on the right side of natural law.”
And natural law very clearly tells us that children have a right to, deserve, need, and crave the love of their mother and father.
TGCA: How might TGCA readers get involved in advocating for the rights of children?
KF: You need to become experts. You need to know more about this than anyone else.
In a compelling and secular way, you need to advocate for God’s design for sex and marriage. And you need to draw a straight line between how children are harmed when adult desire is prioritised above their rights.
At the risk of sounding horribly self-promoting, you need to closely read and study our new book.
We make the case for why marriage is a social justice issue. We examine every manifestation of the modern family- from cohabitation to divorce to polyamory to same-sex parenting to sperm and egg donation to surrogacy to adoption through the lens of children’s rights.
Oftentimes Christians view these marriage and family issues as disconnected from one another. They are not. They are all the different manifestations of the same question: Will you respect or will you disregard the rights of children?
By the end of the book you will walk away with crystal clarity on several matters:
- Our culture has misidentified the victims when it comes to matters of marriage and family. Hint: it’s not adults. Children are the real victims whenever we get answers to questions about marriage and family wrong.
- Children are harmed when they lose a parent by divorce, abandonment, or via #BigFertility.
- We will never achieve any measure of social justice until we secure justice for the individual child.
- In the world of children’s rights, no adult gets a pass. Loving the least of these requires that every adult- single, married, gay, and straight- must do hard things so that children’s rights and thriving are protected.
There are areas where earnest, Scripture-loving Christians can disagree. The issue of a child’s right to both mother and father is not among them.
Sometimes kids will lose a parent in this life due to tragedy. In those cases, Christians must mourn with them. But these days most kids lose their mother or father not through tragedy, but through intentionality.
And that’s an injustice.
I know it’s scary to wade into issues like marriage, reproductive technologies and divorce. Hopefully, this book and our entire children’s rights movement will make it clear that you don’t just have God on your side in those conversations, you have the best social science, the hearts of kids, and the reality of natural design on your side as well.
Despite all that, I can’t promise that you won’t be hated for advocating on behalf of children. But take comfort in the fact that the world hated your Savior first.